Therapy is a process that has to be honest…it is both an art & a science in my mind. It is impossible to grow if both of your feet are in comfort & support. You need to straddle the line between support, safety & being challenged or uncomfortable. Therapy requires that you be uncomfortable to learn new ways to look at yourself.

therapist, therapy, wellness, growth, health, self care, self love

In Pursuit of Wellness: Finding Your Best Therapist Match

Therapy is a process that has to be honest…it is both an art & a science in my mind. It is impossible to grow if both of your feet are in comfort & support. You need to straddle the line between support, safety & being challenged or uncomfortable.

This is Keeping it real with Rhoda. Finding a therapist is not easy. You don’t want a therapist that is just calling it in….Last Fall I tried out a stretching session & the first trainer was really not paying attention, didn’t even know it was my first time & I did not return to her. Trust your gut if it just doesn’t feel right. Therapy is too important to settle.

I was inspired to write this by answering a phone call about someone new wanting an appointment, after explaining at 71 I’m not taking new customers so I said “I don’t want this phone call to be a waste so here are 3 pieces of advice: Look at descriptions on Psychology Today they should say if they are taking new patients, then check out reviews on & Don’t stay with a therapist who just gives you support.”

Therapy is a process that has to be honest…it is both an art & a science in my mind. Therapy requires that you be uncomfortable. The therapy moments seared into my mind where I grew up the most, I was indeed very uncomfortable. It is impossible to grow if both of your feet are in comfort & support. You need to straddle the line between support, safety & being challenged, uncomfortable.

You can’t grow without being uncomfortable. It’s so important I’m going to say that again. You can’t grow without being uncomfortable.

Therapy is a process of facing our illusions, understanding our escape hatches from the pain & difficulty of what life throws at us. While I’m not a crazy Steeler fan, I may even do bookkeeping while watching a game but living in Pittsburgh I have learned to appreciate football. My son sent me a video abut the honorable tradition of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ben begins by admitting it may be over, spliced in-between Troy Palamalu & Jack Lambert with disrespect by current players. I watched & did not understand it & felt mad at Ben. I texted my son who explained the point of the video is that maybe Ben is right. The potential reality that I did not want to face made me cry.

Change is really hard work & facing hard truths, owning your own dark side is no picnic. It can be painful to honestly look at yourself. A good therapist needs to create that moment where you recognize your own dark side instead of making excuses for yourself. Simply receiving reassurance & validation is just not good enough. You need to understand how you participate in your own bad choices. With a good therapist you open your eyes & learn to recognize the harsh truth of how you’ve been a willing accomplice in your own terrible relationships. This is what leads to the internal wince of shame & the resolve to live differently.

Chris Rock in his recent Netflix comedy hour, called out victimhood, saying there are too many victims in the world right now. We have to distinguish feeling defensive & sorry for ourselves with true trauma & tragedy. It’s important to grow enough to carry our trauma within, instead of our trauma burying us in our fears & impossibilities. No one should be in therapy only for validation, the true challenge is to embrace the really hard work of change.

It’s important to be able to trust your therapist when they say things that are hard to hear about yourself….maybe it’s something about being like your mother when you swore you never would be….maybe you are filled up with self righteous blame & you are interrupted by a moment of facing your part in the problem instead of dwelling in that comforting attitude of blame….maybe it’s being interrupted with a new way to think about a problem with your Teen by asking her how you could be a better parent, rather than the sneaky pleasure of enjoying an opportunity to complain.

A story about trust…about someone in brand new recovery which is a fragile time…..saw a therapist that he had shared things with he had never told anyone. Unfortunately the trust he demonstrated was not reciprocated by the therapist. She announced at the very end of the session he was “too extreme” and would have to find somebody else. He had no opportunity for greater understanding or even a referral. Giving credit to them both, he returned to another session & the therapist apologized. A therapist apologizing is an excellent sign. & He gave me permission to share this true story.

I read The Running Grave by Robert Galbraith and I’m going to read you an insightful paragraph from page 763 “Wow” said Robin “You must be a really good therapist.” “What” said Prudence, disconcerted. “To be that honest,’ said Robin “I’ve had therapy. To be totally honest, I only liked one of them. Sometimes there’s a…smugness.” This was shared because Prudence admitted she messed up & had to tell her client. I’ve always called the smugness; therapist as goddess. The authenticity of admitting dropping the ball matters.

Episode #114 was an interview with a world business leader on trust & one of my top favorites. He said the first building block of trust was, Does the other person have your best interests at heart….which is something else to consider when it comes to trust.

Another true story, a young man came to the house to do a small job & he asked me what I did…After I explained, he said “My girlfriend broke up with me & I’ve gone to a few sessions & I can tell you are really different from her.” I shared some specific observations that explained he might want to look at being a people-pleaser & suggested a book to read. He smiled & said “I think she is giving me cookie cutter answers.” Don’t settle for that.

You want a therapist you can spill your guts to…
You want a therapist who will make you consider things in a fresh new way…
You want a therapist you can disagree with & tell them when you feel they didn’t get you quite right…you contribute to course correction.
You want a therapist who cares & is invested in your progress…
You want a therapist who cares about the job that they do…
You want a therapist who wants to do themselves out of a job when you are successful…
You want a therapist who has a theory of change…
You want a therapist who has a website with some free information , not just saying how great they are or selling stuff…
You want a therapist you are not going to coast with…
You want a therapist who respects you & that you respect…

Reality is taking into account both the good & the bad of who we are. I believe that we are all a mixture of good & bad; therapy is to help you have a greater range of choices as to who you are by recognizing & owning both sides.
So right now try picturing the yin & yang, (Pronounced yaa)
Everyone has anxiety in some measure. So lets use that recognizing how lopsided you are in your fears because you have anxiety
….so therapy is all about helping you use the atrophied muscle of the opposite polarity of fear which might be courage or peaceful.
So you consider small steps to stretch the unused muscle of courage or peacefulness.
The more choices you experiment with, Think of fear at #1 & you explore the 2,3,4,5,6,7,8, & 9 continuum with courage at #10, the more you will be whole with a greater range of choices.
It is choicefulness that makes you mentally healthy & helps you to live a more full life.

It is choicefulness that helps you respond instead of reacting like passengers fighting on a plane or the woman who threw a bowl of food at a fast food worker.

Therapy used to be a calling & I hope it still is for most of us. Social workers make the least. I am deeply a social worker. I believe social workers bring more of their heart to the work & social workers can be too sympathy only oriented. Every profession & professional has both their strengths & weaknesses.

One of my most memorable sessions was late at night, because she sounded terrible in the phone call. This woman was suicidal & like many victims of trauma very hyper vigilant. She was grilling me & I was so impressed that she wasn’t just going to settle for trusting someone without putting them/me to the test. You have a right to check people out, to see if they are genuinely interested in working with you….

The theory of change I trained in respects resistance & symptoms have a way that they work for an individual; it’s not possible to change without honoring what weird comfort you get out of whatever unhealthy thing you are doing. Just one example, you never invite anyone over & only wait to be invited; so it’s the comfort of avoiding rejection. When you ask people they can say No….who wants to deal with being rejected?

When I used to introduce myself to new people in a first session I would tell them how important honesty is & my evidence of that is that I want to share that while my strength is to be challenging that at times I may be too direct or on occasion abrupt…I don’t intend to do that but it happens. I would go on to invite them to give me honest feedback when a session wasn’t working for them.

Digest & chew over your therapy sessions, don’t just swallow them whole. Ask for homework to help you learn more outside of the session. Journal in your car after the session for 15 minutes so you don’t forget important moments that require more thought.

I used to hand out index cards to my clients. I would draw pictures, capture important points that I believed needed more attention. Clients would keep them & review them. I did it to expand our time together beyond the 45 minute curfew insurance companies set.

I hope this gives you a lot to think about….trust yourself, if it just doesn’t seem like the right fit….you have a lot of work ahead of you & change is not easy…so find the “right” person to do that journey of facing hard truths with.

I don’t make a dime because I believe in tikkun olam, though I am not Jewish I’ve borrowed it from my husband’s culture. It is Hebrew for repairing the world…being committed to making the world a better place. I hope this podcast achieves the thoughtfulness required to improve relationships. Thanks for listening & tell your friends to spread the word!

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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